In 2023, streaming is abundant. It has its pros: reach, convenience, cost. But what streaming offers in ease it lacks in intimacy. There is no medium more suited for such than vinyl. Of the many musical genres the world over, jazz and blues remain among the most intimate. Quality blues records never lose their mystique, aging like wine through every era. Tapes, CDs, and streaming cut into vinyl’s market, but nothing can put it to bed.
That’s part of why Maple Blues Band are so excited about the vinyl version of their latest album Let’s Go. The Toronto outfit’s 10-track project was released in January through Cordova Bay Records. It has since climbed to the No. 1 spot on the Roots Music Report’s Canadian Chart while residing on the list for 27 straight weeks. It has earned itself quite the reputation, and lovers of jazz can now enjoy the band’s suave grooves through timeless means; its vinyl unveiling provides listeners with the art in its purest form.
“I’m really encouraged by the growing popularity of the vinyl record,” musical director and bassist Gary Kendall said. “Although digital recordings have improved over the years, you can’t beat the sound of good vinyl on a first-class stereo system. It’s the correct and proper way to listen to music.”
It’s been a long time coming for the Maple Blues Band and this release. It took a 24-year collaboration, originating at the Toronto Blues Society programming recap meeting following the 1998 Maple Blues Awards. There, Kendall told the audience that the music that accompanied the award presentations should be better. They retorted: “Let’s see what you can do.” So, Kendall did. “Twenty-four years ago, the ball was in my hands, and I knew I had to make it good, really good,” he explained.
He also knew he needed to find a collection of musical creators capable of contortion. “I wanted a big band that could play all the blues styles: Delta blues, Southside Chicago blues, New Orleans funk, uptown blues, zydeco, blues rock, and most of all Canadian blues,” Kendall recalled.
What Kendall made turned into something unique itself. Infusing styles from across the Canadian blues scene and borrowing pieces from the genre’s many niches, Maple Blues Band have a one-of-a-kind sound born from the beauty of organic collaboration.
The band have been a staple of the Maple Blues Awards ever since, and more than two decades have brought it to this point. Song writing credits on the album include band members past and present. What started as a way to improve a local event has turned into something much more.
For Kendall in particular, it’s been an arduous but rewarding path. “Over the years, the musicians that have contributed to making this dream possible all rose to the occasion lending their talent and support,” Kendall said. “The Maple Blues Band made a really great album with Let’s Go. Being able to listen to it with that warm, fat vinyl sound has made my artistic journey complete.”